Here’s How I Fixed My ADHD Husband

By Linda Walker

Duane-Linda (3)Yesterday, my husband, Duane, and I celebrated 29 years of marriage. I would like to say it was all blissful but I’d be lying, and I’m a terrible liar.  (Not the anniversary!  That was wonderful!  I mean the 29 years of marriage!)

Until Duane received his diagnosis of ADHD in 1996, neither of us knew what the problem was.  Duane and I struggled with dividing household chores (the struggle was not in dividing them, I did it all despite his best efforts and promises to do better), with our finances and the added pressures of Duane’s frequent job changes as he became bored with or lost his jobs.  Under so much pressure, we fought… a lot.  Duane’s impatience and emotional outbreaks affected our relationship and his relationship with our daughters. The entire family was dysfunctional.

After his diagnosis, Duane began his journey toward embracing the positive and overcoming the negative aspects of his ADHD.  Duane and my youngest daughter, as is quite common, received their ADHD diagnosis around the same time – Kyrie was diagnosed first and as we read about her situation, light bulbs went on about Duane’s struggles.  And while only Duane and my youngest were diagnosed, I think of us as a family with ADHD.  We could only solve this problem working together, and so this was as much my journey as theirs.

Today, as an ADHD coach, when I work with an adult ADHDer, some of our biggest challenges are with the spouse.  And I get it.  Been there, done that!  Being a member of family with ADHD can be exhausting, nerve-wracking and absolutely frustrating.  And I think what I found most frustrating is that I thought I had no control over anything.  Once I learned that there were some things I could do to make life with ADHD better for all of us, the building process began and the frustration diminished.

Here’s what I did to fix Duane:


  1. First, I changed my mindset. I realized that I wasn’t the only one suffering in the family.  I know Duane had it worse than me – he was living it 24/7.  He wanted to be a better partner and a more patient father.  Our daughters suffered too.  They saw their parents constantly worried, fighting or impatient.  Kyrie struggled with her ADHD and learning disabilities, and our oldest daughter, Jennifer, felt neglected as all our efforts were directed at helping Kyrie and Duane.  Duane wasn’t the only one who had some work to do, I did too.  As parents, we feel for our children and would do anything to make their hurt stop, after all they didn’t ask for this.  Oddly enough, we don’t always feel the same empathy towards our spouses with ADHD (even though they didn’t ask for it either!)  I let go of my martyrdom and embraced empowerment, realizing that at any given moment, people do the best they can with what they know at the time.
  2. I learned all I could about ADHD.  I didn’t just learn so I could help my daughter (which as a mother, I would do without question) but also for my husband.  The more I knew, the more empowered I felt.  I read books, listened to webinars and went to conferences on ADHD.  Attending our first ADDA Conference as a couple was a life-changing event.  We both learned so much, met other people coping successfully with what we were going through and left empowered.
  3. I became part of the solution.  Duane struggles with several aspects of ADHD, but the worst is his short-term memory, which IS an ADHD problem.  So why was I asking him to do things or to pick things up at the store when he didn’t have a pen and paper or his PDA to take notes?  I also often asked him to help when he was tired or distracted. How likely was that to turn into a positive situation?  It was only when I was willing to let go of the way things were done and turn responsibility over to Duane that we began to make progress.  He told me he’d take over certain tasks, if he could do it his way.  He took over the grocery shopping.  I offered my help if he needed it (secretly thinking we’d probably starve to death waiting for Duane!)  To my surprise, he created his own system for doing it (don’t ever tell him I said this, but it’s much more efficient than the way I did it!) and we’ve never looked back.
  4. I took care of myself.  I lowered my standards on things that didn’t really matter much, especially in the beginning.  So what if I didn’t clean the house EVERY week and cook ALL my meals from scratch?  Instead of chasing dust bunnies, I spent time with friends to relax and return to my family a lot more ready to laugh as freak out at the wacky situations most ADHD families encounter regularly.
  5. The most important thing I did was to notice any positive changes.  As Duane began to work with his physician and his coach, I avoided nagging about what wasn’t yet addressed – change takes time – and made sure to notice what was moving in the right direction.   And I was sure to let him know how much I appreciated it.

There are several other things we did to improve life as an ADHD family.  We learned to communicate better how we felt rather than blaming, and we shared our dreams and aspirations.  We started dating again; no, we didn’t have much money back then, but using Duane’s vivid imagination, we found fun things to do that cost little or no money.  We didn’t get bogged down by social norms of gender roles and what constitutes woman’s work and man’s work, opting instead to take on the jobs around the house that we were better at or liked more.

We even created our own secret language to use discretely in public (I could provide Duane with cues to appropriate behavior in social situations, for example. And he could signal when he couldn’t take another minute of the 47 family members sharing a cabin in the woods for Christmas anymore and needed a break for some peace and quiet.)

And so now 29 years later, here we are still married, and much, much happier. We laugh a lot more and fight a lot less. I can safely say that Duane is my best friend and I, his. Was it easy?  Absolutely not, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together and I know it was definitely worth it.

9 thoughts on “Here’s How I Fixed My ADHD Husband”

  1. Hi Linda,
    I am in this situation right now. I am with a guy who has un-diagnosed ADHD or may be ADD. He is not treated yet because we are from south Asian culture. It took him sometimes to understand he needs help. So my point is at this time I am a graduate student , getting my PhD of course a poor graduate student 🙂 and he is in undergraduate, that means he has almost no money. Where can he go for treatment at minimal cost? Also I would like to know what are the conferences you attended with your husband?

    1. Hi Debs, I know the situation in Asia is very challenging. There are few if any ADHD clinics and even having ADHD medications can be grounds for arrest. The first thing he can do with or without diagnosis is take good care of himself – get 7 1/2 hours sleep each night, exercise, eat well, find opportunities do things to relax. This won’t cure his ADHD but will reduce his symptoms. The ADDA Association (ADDA) has virtual support groups. You just need to be a member (it’s very inexpensive) and you can be part of an online support group. You call in through VOIP or phone and at least can begin to gain some support from people who understand you.

      We go to the ADDA conference; they stopped having any after major financial challenges. And more recently, we went the CHADD. Both hold conferences in the US. There’s CADDAC that holds a short conference in Canada.

      I wish you courage!

  2. Thank you Linda for making me feel understood! I’m trying to make things work with my unofficially diagnosed husband of 20 years. It has been a rollercoaster ride but things were going down hill when I started working again. In the Netherlands there is less help available. My son was diagnosed and I suspect my youngest daughter will get the diagnosis too in a couple of years. She’s 6. Anyway, I’m trying to let go of the hopelessness I’ve felt for the past years. It is too much at times feeling you are the only one keeping things together. What a struggle and no one sees it. Fortunately my husband whom I love dearly has seen the light and acknowledges the Adhd! We are on the road to improvement. I’m trying to figure out how to best support my family and found your tips inspiring.

    1. Hi Kim,

      Thank you for your comment, it warms my heart to know that it is reaching some people in a positive way. A very positive thing that I see in the what you’re saying is that your husband acknowledges his ADHD. There is nothing you can do for him until he does that and decides to take steps to work with his ADHD to better your family life and become a better partner for you. Most ADHD coaches work remotely with clients. I’m currently working with people in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and even Iran. So don’t let the lack of resources in the Netherlands stop you from getting the help you need; it’s out there for you to access; it just may not be in your backyard.

      I invite your husband to check out my free program, Your Path Forward at to start off.

      I wish you all courage to stretch out of your comfort zone, which is quite uncomfortable I’m sure, and to achieve the joy of being in the family where all members are accepted as they are.

  3. I love how you, an ADHD coach, tells us how you helped your husband. It makes sense that everyone needs to change their mindset, especially those without ADHD. I’ll have to tell my sister that, since her husband has this.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond. The gist of the email is that I had to change too. I had to notice the effort and the progress, rather than always point to what he was doing wrong. Using the carrot, rather than the stick.

      When we notice the positive steps the people around us are making, they are more likely to repeat them because we all want to be admired to a certain degree. Plus, what you pay attention to, grows. Pay attention to the good stuff and more of it will come. Notice only the negative and you risk discouraging your partner.

  4. Love this! There’s hope!! My guy was diagnosed since age 5 but after 3 years of living together, I realized it not solely “his” condition to deal with. We went into couples counseling and I am learning about ADHD. Also my own hyper-focused issues were uncovered from having an OCD father. We have the same values in which I have a mental foundation to stem from. Learning he lives either in the NOW or NOT NOW was monumental because of the forced structured upbringing.

  5. My hubby was upfront about his ADD, diagnosed as a child. I just didn’t understand what that meant. I have spent our 17 years cleaning up after him, wondering why he hates me so much that he leaves things all over the floor for me to fall and break my neck on, as the last 5 years I have been somewhat disabled. Especially my last stint, 5 months in the hospital, 2 months ICU, the rest rehab. Being home, I have a tunnel through my gut, frequent dressing changes, of bloody drainage contributing to anemia, which contributes to vertigo, (fistulas can last 20 years I am learning), a colostomy meaning poor absorption, neuropathy in my feet and legs, (worsened by the 14 abdominal surgeries, surgeons can’t see the nerves so it a crapshoot).Also ARDS scarred lungs, so I run to of breath and can’t stand or walk long. So I am no longer capable of doing everything and he simply does not do things. There is trash and stuff piled high around me, crap on the floor I can’t reach to clean up that hurt my feet when I walk to the bathroom, I’m limited in cooking due to lack of running water, (winter, garden hoses frozen, I shoved them through the wall over 2 years ago, I was happy to have that), Kitchen has trash and junk stacked all over, impossible mess. I was organizing until the ER and now it;s just a dream in my head to make drawers in the cupboards so I can pull drawers instead of crawling around on my knees trying to see what’s in the back of the cupboards. He will never do this. He paces back and forth not knowing what to do if he has a dirty pan and can’t find a clean one.
    I just ask for prayers that I can get well and get back to work.

  6. I am sure when they are positive to get help that it goes well. I had a husband who for 32 years demeaned me. Last 3 years he seems to realize his damage to me but the trust isn’t there and especially because he still wont see anyone or acknowledge ADD. So i feel stuck. I have been a very supportive kind wife who has burned out now.

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